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Argentina pressures Russia over Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine delays

Argentina, one of the first countries to widely use Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, has ratcheted up pressure on Moscow over delays in the arrival of second doses that are holding back its COVID-19 inoculation campaign.

Argentina pressures Russia over Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine delays

A shipment of doses of the Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is seen after arriving at Ezeiza International Airport, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Jan 28, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian)

BUENOS AIRES: Argentina, one of the first countries to widely use Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, has ratcheted up pressure on Moscow over delays in the arrival of second doses that are holding back the South American nation's inoculation campaign.

The Argentine government sent a letter to Russian state entity RDIF dated Jul 7, in which it said it urgently needed component 2 doses of the vaccine, which are different from the first dose, and warned that the supply agreement was at risk.

"At this point the entire contract is at risk of being publicly canceled," the government wrote in the letter, which was reported by local newspaper La Nacion on Thursday and confirmed publicly by two senior officials.

"We understand the shortage and the production difficulties of a few months ago. But now, seven months later, we are still far behind, as we are starting to receive doses from other providers on a regular basis, with schedules that are met."

Argentina, with a population of about 45 million, has administered 22.9 million first shots of a COVID-19 vaccine, though only 5.8 million people have been fully inoculated with two doses, one of the biggest lags between first and second jabs in the region.

The country was an early and important advocate of the use of the Sputnik V vaccine, though it has recently looked to amend local legislation to allow more vaccines to arrive from the United States and has tied up a major deal with Moderna.

Health Minister Carla Vizzotti acknowledged the letter to radio station El Destape on Thursday and said it was common practice to push suppliers to help ensure contracts were met. The "pressure" had helped speed things up, she added.

The minister said some 500 liters of the second component of the Sputnik V vaccine would arrive in the coming weeks, enabling domestic production of a further 880,000 second doses by local firm Laboratorios Richmond. More would arrive after that.

"As a result of this intense negotiation, the panorama regarding component 2, which is our big focus, is becoming clearer," Vizzotti said.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is responsible for marketing Sputnik V overseas, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Argentina's health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cecilia Nicolini, an Argentine presidential adviser, in an interview with Radio con Vos also confirmed the letter and said it was one of many sent between Argentina and Russia as part of negotiations over the purchase and supply of Sputnik V.

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Source: Reuters

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